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President Biden's new Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona, hit the ground running Wednesday. Just one day after being sworn in, Cardona traveled to his hometown of Meriden, Conn. with first lady Dr. Jill Biden, on a tour of schools meant to push for the return of in-person learning and to send a clear message to the American people — that the Biden Administration is doing all it can to get children back in classrooms.

President Biden said on Tuesday that a key milestone in the fight against COVID-19 could be reached two months faster than earlier projected. By the end of May, there should be enough vaccine doses for every adult in America, he said — a dramatic improvement to his initial timetable for late July.

A turning point in speeding up that pledge came a few weeks ago, on a Sunday afternoon in early February, during a phone call with Johnson & Johnson executives that had been planned for 15 minutes but stretched for longer than an hour, two senior administration officials told NPR.

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, is testifying before Congress about the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He's taking questions from a committee chaired by Democrat Dick Durbin.

(SOUNDBITE OF HEARING)

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Farming has destroyed a lot of the rich soil of America's Midwestern prairie. A team of scientists just came up with a staggering new estimate for just how much has disappeared.

The most fertile topsoil is entirely gone from a third of all the land devoted to growing crops across the upper Midwest, the scientists say. Some of their colleagues, however, remain skeptical about the methods that produced this result.

It's a simple fact. Black and brown families are more likely to be evicted than white ones. There are many reasons for this, but the pandemic has made matters worse and could widen the gap for years to come.

Aniya is a case in point. She's a mother of two, unemployed, struggling to get by. By the end of this month, she has to leave her two-bedroom apartment in Richmond, VA., and find a new place to live. This comes on top of an already tough 2020. We agreed not to use Aniya's full name because of possible repercussions on her ability to find another place to live.

The rift within the Republican Party spilled out into full view this week.

After voting to acquit Donald Trump on an impeachment charge of incitement of insurrection following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said unequivocally that the former president is to blame.

Sen. Ben Sasse is one of seven Republicans who crossed party lines to vote to convict former President Donald Trump during his historic second impeachment trial.

The effort fell 10 votes short of the 67 needed to convict but served to fortify the junior senator from Nebraska's bona fides as a conservative with an independent streak and put him further at odds with party leaders back home.

In a wide-ranging interview with NPR's Morning Edition on Tuesday, Sasse said the Republican Party is in a battle between what he calls "conservatism and short-term-ism."

The mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol may have been a fringe group of extremists, but politically motivated violence has the support of a significant share of the U.S. public, according to a new survey by the American Enterprise Institute.

Updated at 9 a.m. ET

Hiring resumed just tepidly last month after a slump in December, as the labor market faces a long climb to recover the millions of jobs lost during the pandemic.

U.S. employers added 49,000 jobs in January, after a revised drop of 227,000 the month before. Unemployment fell to 6.3%, from 6.7% in December, as hundreds of thousands of people left the workforce.

Industries that saw notable job gains in January include business and professional services and finance, but bars and restaurants continued to lose jobs.

McKinsey & Company has reached a $573 million settlement with nearly 50 state governments as well as the District of Columbia and territories, over its role helping to market and boost sales of high-risk opioids including OxyContin.

Most of the funds will be devoted to paying for treatment and rehabilitation programs in communities devastated by the addiction crisis. As part of the settlement, McKinsey admits to no wrongdoing.

This deal heads off civil lawsuits threatened by state attorneys general.

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Police in Myanmar have officially filed charges against the country's former civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. She is in detention two days after a military coup. Michael Sullivan has been following this story for us from Thailand.

Actor Hal Holbrook was the voice in the shadows of a parking garage in All the President's Men, and a Tony Award winner for his depiction of Mark Twain. He died at his home in Beverly Hills on Jan. 23. He was 95.

A global study of nearly 44,000 found that the COVID-19 vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson is 66% effective in preventing moderate to severe disease.

The study was conducted in the U.S., Latin America and South Africa. The vaccine did better at preventing disease in the U.S. – 72% — and less well in South Africa – 57% efficacy. The efficacy seen in Latin America was 66%.

Updated at 1:12 p.m. ET

The nation's economic engine slowed considerably in recent months, as it faced off against a winter wave of coronavirus infections.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the nation's gross domestic product grew just under 1% in October, November and December — a marked downshift from the three previous months. On an annualized basis, the economy grew 4% in the fourth quarter.

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SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

House impeachment managers have delivered an article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump to the Senate.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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NOEL KING, HOST:

As COVID-19 deaths and illnesses mount, essential workers — who are denied the chance to work from home — are struggling to stay safe. And it's far from clear whether the federal government is doing enough to protect them, according to a former top federal workplace safety official.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration official, Deborah Berkowitz, said the Trump administration has neglected COVID-19 safety at meatpacking plants and many other workplaces.

Updated at 12:27 p.m. ET

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, one of the most prolific donors in conservative politics, died Monday night at the age of 87 due to complications from treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to a statement from Las Vegas Sands, the company he founded.

U.S. employers cut 140,000 jobs in December as the runaway coronavirus pandemic continued to weigh on the U.S. labor market.

It was the first monthly job loss in eight months. The unemployment rate held steady at 6.7%.

With thousands of Americans dying from COVID-19 each day, businesses that depend on in-person contact have struggled.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska is on the line. The Republican was one of those in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday when rioters attacked. When Congress reconvened, Sasse gave a speech saying, quote, "Lies have consequences," said the attack on the Capitol was the inevitable and ugly outcome of the president's addiction to constantly stoking division. And then Sasse voted to affirm the election results.

Senator, welcome back to the program.

BEN SASSE: Thanks for having me on, Steve.

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NOEL KING, HOST:

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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

President-elect Joe Biden's choice for White House press secretary says she will restore a tradition. Unlike her immediate predecessors in the Trump administration, Jen Psaki plans to take questions from reporters each day.

Psaki has played similar roles before. She was the spokesperson for the State Department when John Kerry was secretary of state, then President Barack Obama's communications director, and she now speaks for Biden.

Back in the spring, farmers who raise pigs were in a panic. Many major customers, such as food service companies that supply restaurants, weren't buying pork. Prices had fallen sharply. Some hog farmers had no place to ship their animals because so many workers in pork processing plants got sick from COVID-19.

"Our folks need a lifeline," said Nick Giordano, top lobbyist for the National Pork Producers Council, on a call with journalists in May. "Unless there is a large cash infusion from the federal government, we're going to lose a lot of producers."

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And now for Christmas. In Bethlehem, the ancient community has seen so much over the years, spiked with war and conflict, but none quite like this year's holiday during a pandemic. NPR's Daniel Estrin went to the Palestinian town and has this report.

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